It took me longer than I expected to get the chance to interview the CEO/Chairman and Founder of Pokeware the beautiful and brilliant Maryse Liburdi. And it’s not through lack of trying, in all fairness she was very busy with meetings at the White House with Vice President Biden, Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Orrin Hatch discussing patent reform and innovation protection. Nevertheless she kindly made some time for me.
Described as one of the world’s leading disruptive figures in technology, Maryse’s company Pokeware keeps her travelling across the world to offices in New York, Madrid, Paris, Milan and London it was a humbling experience to speak with her.
Still in her thirties not only does Maryse run one of the most important online businesses on the internet but she has also held a pilot’s licence for the past five years and does most of her own flying, when she can. Typically, NY to DC, or MSP to ORD. Hands-on in the office, outspoken about her beliefs and gifted with the seemingly impossible ability to arrive at every meeting immaculately dressed, fresh faced and confident.
Yes, it was a very humbling experience speaking with her.
Maryse’s company Pokeware, the visual search capability software, was conceived when she was still in college.
“I had spent days trying to find a dress that I had seen on television,” she says, “And the idea was conceived as a means to make this easier,”
A lover of high-fashion and an infamous advocate for keeping users in control, she went to work to create a concept that would simplify the process of locating specific pieces of clothing. So, instead of having to think of the right keywords to use thanks to Pokeware a user could simply “poke” an object in a video to create search results for that object.
However, this was in 1997, a time where many companies were not as technically inclined and the forward thinking New Yorker and her vision proved to be too much for many of them, the headstrong beauty explains, “I had just completed a degree in biology and computer science at the University of South Carolina, but this was entrepreneurship and they don’t teach courses for that so we had to diversify the Pokeware offering and anchor ourselves as a pioneer in a culture of innovation.”
What this means is that Pokeware in many ways provided a significant contribution to the speed at which the internet infiltrated every level of business since then to today and with this in mind, the innovative potential that the world-wide-web provides all of us can be directly linked back to her. Always striving to keep her creation up to date and relevant, Pokeware made history in 2005 by teaming up with musician Pras Michel of The Fugees who launched a remix of U2’s “I still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, to produce the first ever interactive music video related to the solutions Pokeware could offer.
And, more recently in 2012, Pokeware was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Global Growth Company in acknowledgement of their development trajectory and the client list using Pokeware include the Olympic Games, National Basketball Association (NBA), Gucci and Elle magazine.
APPROACH TO BUSINESS
Known as someone who can shake things up, Maryse is quite candid about her approaches to business and the importance of self-reliance.
“I get asked a lot about who my role models were as I grew up,” she reflects, “But it always strikes me as a peculiar question because I really didn’t have one. I think what I had instead was a deep enjoyment of learning and trying new things so there was never one person that I’d look up to,”
She adds, “That’s the beauty of the internet, it can inspire you, so I guess you could say that the internet was my inspiration.”
Now, when it comes to business, you’d be hard pressed to find someone with more experience or a sharper mind. Having been at the forefront of the digital era since 1997 Maryse’ approach to business has always been ahead of her time and concentrated on leading by example. She says that it’s important as a leader to demonstrate a good work ethic and that people working with you and around you will navigate towards that behaviour.
EMBRACING WHO YOU ARE.
The embodiment of the modern-day businesswoman Maryse doesn’t shy away from her femininity. Always a breath-taking vision, she received her first lesson in fashion from her father, who was a doctor, who strongly advocated the importance of “Dressing how you want to be addressed.” Taking this to heart she encourages other career women to fully embrace being a woman and believes that the persecution of femininely confident women in the office poses a direct threat to women striving to climb the corporate ladder.
Highly outspoken against sexism and her support for the multi-billion pound fashion industry she feels that women should feel free to express their fashion sense as an integral part of their brand.
“When we dress we adopt a uniform and our appearance is key to how we are perceived. Fashion is a multi-billion pound industry on which millions of jobs depend, it should not be undermined or undervalued,” she says.
However, while making a physical impression is important it is not the only tool that she believes is essential to be successful and goes on to add, “To make a great impression you first have to listen to what other people have to say and to try understand the environment you are in and never be quick to judge,”
“It’s irresponsible and selfish to think that one knows what’s going on with someone else and what is going on in their head. Five people can be looking at the same image but all can be looking at five different objects within that image. One person can be looking at a handgun, one at a lamp, one at the table, one at the nail polish and someone else could be looking at the dress a character is wearing,”
This approach, of listening first, and not assuming, has proven significantly important in creating the brand that has become Maryse Liburdi. It is because of her tendency to listen and gather facts before making decisions that have made her a formidable element in the business world. She started her own company straight out of college with her own money, overcoming the same financial troubles that all entrepreneurs endure, to becoming one of the people that Vice Presidents and Senators call for advice.
It has also made her one of the most balanced and happiest of people around. A career woman by choice, Maryse is looking forward to starting a family with her husband (Italian entrepreneur, Mauro Liburdi), but has some key tools for keeping herself both happy and successful:
“One, get enough sleep as we don’t make good decisions when tired. Two, make time for your family and friends, because they’ll keep you sane and make you happy,” she says, “And three don’t leave things for the last minute, if you’re going to open an envelope or an email, you need to respond to it, because if you don’t you’ll end up with a big pile of things that will never get done.”
Enjoying tennis, basketball and running outside of the office, Maryse does acknowledge that she hasn’t enjoyed a proper vacation in a long time and that doing so is one of her goals for this year, “Every place I have travelled, has been a business destination,” she says, “There are some wonderful places in the world that I have researched, like Mauritius and the Seychelles Islands, that I would like to visit one day.”
WHAT WILL SHE BE DOING FOR THE FUTURE?
While “Bbusiness as usual” is a term that really doesn’t apply to this jet setting entrepreneur, 2014 is still going to be an exciting one for Maryse. She will be going to the World Economic Forum in Nigeria, running the New York marathon, something that she has done before to raise funds for children born with pediatric AIDS, with a number of her running pictures floating around online, and enjoying a proper vacation without a computer or phone in sight!
While Maryse may have found role models and inspiration in the internet, found direction more thanks to her incredible mind than someone else’s guidance, she has still become an outstanding model for future generations of female and male business people. An icon of innovation, free thinking and ambition:
“We all are creatures of GOD. As human beings we have so much potential, but we need to work hard and be focused. During the centuries, we have always been innovative, and today technology is part of our evolution—a future that I am trying to contribute to, every day.” she concludes.
“When someone tells you it can’t be done, it’s more a reflection of their limitations, not yours.” ~ Dr Andy Baldwin